Cops Shouldn't Pull Guns at a Snowball Fight

There are occasions when a police officer, alone and greatly outnumbered, may find it prudent to draw his sidearm and project an intimidating show of force, thereby conveying the message that anyone who gets the least bit stroppy with him will soon regret it. A snowball fight is not one of those occasions.

I’ve spent my police career in Los Angeles, where in my lifetime it has snowed but once, and where as I write these words the temperature under a cloudless sky is nearing 70 degrees, so I admit my professional experience in dealing with snow storms, snowmen, snow drifts, snowshoes and, yes, snowball fights, is limited. Still, I’m confident I would not have followed the course taken by a Washington, D.C., police detective last Saturday when he found himself, alone and greatly outnumbered, in the middle of a snowball fight at the intersection of 14th and U Streets in the Northwest section of the District.

The snowball fight had been organized via Twitter and other social networking websites, and it attracted, according to participant Daniel Schramm’s thoughtful account in the Washington Post, a number of people who, like Schramm himself, were “young, well educated and politically active.” Schramm, for example, describes his own job as one in which he “analyze[s] policies designed to strengthen environmental laws in developing countries.” (And where but in our nation’s capital would you find anyone thus employed?) This demographic, he says, suggests that “a strong majority of [the snowballers] support new laws on climate change and health care. It was no accident that the detective’s vehicle, a gas-guzzling Hummer, was targeted for snowballing.”

Thus the stage was set for Saturday’s confrontation: a crowd of young, environmentally aware citizens sharing their communally held thoughts on global warming in the middle of a pre-Christmas snowstorm. Many of the revelers, sadly for the detective, were equipped with cellphone cameras and the like, with which they captured the events for posterity. There they were, flinging the white stuff hither and thither and having a rollicking, holly-jolly time when along came the gargantuan maroon Hummer, an opportune target for both their scorn and their snowballs. This four-wheeled leviathan, driven no doubt by some soulless Republican whose indifference to the perils of global warming was betrayed by his choice in transportation, simply cried out to be pelted. So, with limitless ammunition at their disposal, a few people in the crowd let loose a barrage.